One of the most exciting parts of being in the hearing health profession over the past few decades is watching the wealth of high-technology products reach the market. The transition to digital-based tech has enabled features and individual adaptability that were unheard of prior to the turn of the century, when hearing aids were really just amplifiers. Today’s hearing aids are to those what the first cell phones were to today’s smartphones.
Rather than just turning up the volume, contemporary hearing aids can integrate their functions with a whole host of other devices via wireless networks, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing.
With Bluetooth connectivity, hearing aids can communicate directly with smartphones. This not only makes hearing phone calls much easier — as the audio from the phone is piped directly into your hearing aid — but most systems include a separate clip-on microphone (some even disguised to look like a writing pen) that will pick up your speaking voice and allow for a hands-free system.
In addition, most hearing aids have smartphone apps that can control its functions. The phone’s screen and the app’s easy functionality make for a high level of controllability. A generation ago adjusting a hearing aid meant fumbling with a volume wheel or buttons behind the ear — or actually removing the unit from the ear and making “trial and error” adjustments. Those days are gone. With an app, a wide range of modifications can be made without even having to touch the hearing aid.
Likewise, digital hearing aids can also be linked to televisions, radios, and computers in order to stream sounds directly into them. And data from your hearing aid can be uploaded to your hearing health provider to allow for finely tuned adjustment, including artificial intelligence (AI) analysis. It really is a whole new world for hearing aids – and it’s only just beginning.